Posts Tagged ‘landscapes’

Lanscapes bigshapes header

June 29, 2013

CONTENTS


• PLAYA BONITA 2
• TIRIRICA BEACH SHACKS



PLAYA BONITA 2



I find I’m getting better at painting landscapes these days,
and mostly I think that’s due to the fact that I’m getting better at seeing the big shapes. Or maybe I should say I’m being more disciplined about ONLY looking at the big shapes. Because you can see the big shapes and still get seduced into overworking and over-detail-ing the painting.

Playabonita1

Here's the first painting I did of Playa Bonita in the Dominican Republic. It was a positive experience for me in learning to see the big shapes.

I really liked what happened with the painting “Playa Bonita,” so I chose another photograph I took the same day, but looking another direction. Like the image I used for the first painting, this one also had some nice shapes, particularly the shadows.

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Source image for my second Playa Bonita painting.

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Here's the same image tweaked in Photoshop to give me a better idea of values and big shapes.

I did my usual tweaking with Photoshop, but this time I did something else digital as well: I did a digital painting of the image, not as a finished artwork, but as a way of exploring the image. I wanted to make sure I was only working with the big shapes, and I thought it would be interesting to try doing it digitally. One of the great advantages of doing it that way is that by using Photoshop’s sampling and fill tools, I can lay out the big shapes and quickly color them using exactly the right hues and values. It’s a quick way to see if what I have in mind will work, without all the time and trouble of mixing up a bunch of paint.

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Above is the digital painting I did based on the source photo. I used the Lasso tool which, if you hold down the option key while applying it, allows you to draw straight-sided shapes as simply or with as much complexity as you want. Then I sampled the color I wanted right from the source photo, and used the Fill tool to fill the shape I’d just drawn with that color.

As you can see, reducing the image to its basic shapes in this way gives you a powerfully different way to look at it, and in this case it sets me up perfectly for the approach I want to take with the actual painting.

Here’s a great thing about working with big shapes: painting goes a lot faster. I’m a big fan of paintings that happen quickly. I am not a work-on-it-for-weeks-and-weeks kind of painter. Not at all! If it isn’t happening in the first hour, I usually abandon it and move on to something else. I have nothing against people who like to spend months on a single painting, it’s just not me. Maybe it’s just a short attention span. But I’ve learned I do better work when I don’t torture myself. And I’m a lot happier!

Another thing about working fast is that I have a better chance of keeping the energy level high. And lately I’ve gotten clearer about the fact that I want my paintings to be explosions of energy. Not for me the quiet, considered painting. I want action, vitality, life! I want bold brushstrokes and excitement. It’s what I want in life, and it’s what I want in my paintings.

Playabonita2 inprog

Here's the painting about 75% completed.

In this case, there were very few hiccups and the painting came together nicely—and I kept the energy high! I especially like what happened when I laid in those cool bluish shadow shapes at middle right. They turned out to be just the cool contrast all those warms in the foreground needed. That’s the warm vs. cool magic that can happen when it’s done right, and if you’ve been reading this blog you know I’ve gotten a lot better at managing warms and cools in the past year. Here’s the completed painting:

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It’s entitled “Playa Bonita 2.”


TIRIRICA BEACH SHACKS


A few days later I decided to try another landscape painting with a similar approach, but a different type of subject matter: buildings.

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Here's the photo of beach shacks in Tiririca I chose to work from.

I chose a photo of some beach shacks I snapped while walking along the road between the guesthouse where Steph and I were staying in Tiririca, and the town of Itacaré (for more on that trip, go to Brazil Trip with an Unexpected Male Nude Photo Shoot.) It looked like it would be a good opportunity to just see the big shapes.

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Same photo tweaked in Photoshop.

I did my usual Photoshop tweaking to remove detail and enhance color, then I posterized the image to make the values clearer. And again, as I did with Playa Bonita 2, I sat down at the computer with my Wacom tablet and did a digital study to reduce the image to its main shapes.

Digitalpaintingversion

And again, preparing in this way made a world of difference. I think it’s not only that one gets to know the subject matter better, it also builds confidence. Seeing that the image works well with just the big shapes and no detail at all, I feel a lot more confident when I step up to the easel and start slinging paint around.

Inprog on easel

The painting went so quickly and so smoothly I only remembered to stop and snap an in-progress photo (above) once, when the painting was almost done. Below is the finished work followed by some details (close-ups) which give you a chance to see the brushwork and appreciate the fact that there really is almost no detail.

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The finished painting: Tiririca Beach Shacks.


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Tiririca Beach Shacks, detail 1


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Tiririca Beach Shacks, detail 2



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Tiririca Beach Shacks, detail 3

Title image

January 31, 2013



When I got back from my Dominican Republic trip on December 12, it took me about a week to catch up on stuff—“stuff” meaning work that wasn’t drawing or painting. Then I was finally free to begin creating art again.

I’d been thinking about painting most of the time I was in the D.R., wishing I could do some. I was very impatient to get back into my studio and start splashing paint onto canvas.

I was so excited to start a painting…

…right up until the moment when it was time to actually GO INTO THE STUDIO AND START A PAINTING!

Then I found all these things I absolutely had to do first. Like making sure my art database was up to date. Rotating the art on my website. Looking at pix of naked guys online. Checking Facebook.

Anything but actually painting!

I always forget about this when I’m away and can’t paint. When I can’t, then I really want to do it. But when I CAN, I find all kinds of things to do instead.

I guess this is human nature, and painters are no exception. It’s always easier to do the less risky stuff.

Finally, though, you just get to the point where you know you have no choice. You have to paint. Doesn’t even matter what you paint. But you have to get started.

So that’s what I did. I began with some landscapes. Safe stuff. And I actually didn’t do too badly. Here’s one of the acrylic sketches I did of the beach in Las Terrenas.

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I followed that with a nice little painting of the road to Las Terrenas.

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Then I did a larger painting that was more of a commitment. “Sunset in Las Terrenas” was kind of a safe, conservative painting both in terms of style and subject matter, but it turned out well, and I felt like I was starting to get somewhere.

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This one's called Sunset in Las Terrenas.

So I decided to do a figure, and I chose a photograph of Manuel with a towel to work from. I had high hopes for this one—I drew it right on the canvas and the drawing had lots of good energy. Then I started painting and—it all went to hell. On the face of it it’s not that bad…I could have finished it and it would have been perfectly okay. But I was not aiming for “okay.” There was no energy, no excitement. For me, working on a painting under those conditions is a kind of torture. So I painted it out.

Failed manuel w towel 3up

This one didn't work out…

I was having trouble because I wasn’t clear what I was aiming for, I just knew it needed to be something exciting and daring. Hard to get somewhere when you don’t know where it is. I just knew where it WASN’T.

The problem—if you want to call it that—is that I spend a lot of time looking at art by other artists. (If you’re interested, you can see some of the art I find inspiring by checking out my boards on Pinterest, especially Art I Like, Abstracts and Bold Brushwork.) I see things that excite me and move me deeply, and I want that kind of energy, emotion and excitement in my work. And that’s great, because it gives me creative energy. But it’s not so great in that it doesn’t give me any direction. Or I should say it gives me TOO MANY directions. There are so many things I want to try, but when you get into the studio, you kind of have to just CHOOSE SOMETHING and begin. You do need to have some idea of what you want to do.

Except sometimes you don’t.

I was so full of energy and so unsure of what I wanted to do with it, I decided to just put up a blank canvas and start throwing paint at it. My goal was not to create a painting, but just to PAINT. I figured this was a good way to tackle the paralysis that was threatening to keep me from painting at all.

And it worked!

Here are some of the results (I didn’t save any of these, but I did take pictures to keep track of my progress).

IMG 5533 exercise

The first exercise. It sucked, but it didn't matter. In fact that was kind of the point.


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Exercise piece 2. I'm starting to have more fun here as I really realize it doesn't matter what I do.


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Exercise piece 3. I actually kind of liked this one. But not well enough to keep it. I didn't want to start getting attached to these while I was still using them to loosen up.


IMG 5537 exercise

Exercise piece 4. Each one got a little more energetic and interesting…I was startingto get more confident.

I thought the first one pretty much sucked, but reminded myself it didn’t matter. The point was not to make a great painting, but just to paint. So I did another one. And interesting things started to happen.

Just the act of mixing paint and then using my sponges to make big, bold strokes on the canvas was liberating and energizing. What was happening was, I was starting to get my confidence back. I did this sort of thing for a couple of days and I started to feel limbered up, so I decided to try another figure painting. Again, I chose a photograph of my newest model, Manuel.

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Here's a photograph of Manuel at Playa Escondida near Las Terrenas in the Dominican Republic. I decided to try doing a painting of this one.



This one went pretty well. The loosening-up process had really done what I needed it to do. It also helped that I painted this one pretty much entirely with sponges, which is a good way to keep myself from getting too careful. It also forces me to work large, which is good for me.

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Manuel at the Beach, in progress.


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Manuel at the Beach, the completed painting.

This one was kind of fun, although I felt I was still playing it a bit too safe. Doesn’t matter; it turned out well and I like it. At this point I just needed some successes to get my confidence back.

I followed this with some more abstract exercises. Again, I didn’t save these; they were exercises to get me in shape for the next painting.

IMG 5543 exercise

Another exercise piece. Looking at this one, several days after doing it, I almost wish I'd kept it. It's better than I realized at the time. Oh well, it served its purpose.



IMG 5544 exercise

I don't feel anything was lost by my having destroyed this one. But it did do what it was meant to do, which was to get me expressing myself with paint, without self-judgment.


And the next painting was another one of Manuel. This was a smaller work, nothing too earth-shattering, but a nice piece, solid, fairly loose, and I felt good about it. More confidence building, more of the day-to-day studio work you have to do to get good enough that you’re prepared when lightning does strike.

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The source photo and the painting, which I entitled Rainy Morning Study.

When I finished Rainy Morning Study, I went right back to my ‘exercises.’ And something happened that surprised me. One of my exercises turned into a real, solid abstract painting that I liked a lot. So I kept it! It’s called “Good Company.”

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This abstract painting is called Good Company.

Excited about the abstract I’d just done, I decided to try another one. This one, too, worked out. Although it wasn’t as spontaneous as Good Company, I like the energy of it. It’s called “Inside Job.” (Both those titles just popped into my head when I finished the paintings, thank goodness. Sometimes it’s a real challenge to come up with painting titles.)

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I titled this one Inside Job.

So after 3 weeks of warming up I feel like the creative juices are starting to flow again. I like the fact that I never know what will happen next, and while I’m not sure where this abstract stream in my work will go, I’m enjoying it, and I do know that it doesn’t matter that much WHAT I’m painting, as long as I AM painting.